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Scenes from The University of Rhode Island

URI student is academically tops –twice!

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KINGSTON, R.I.-- May 19, 2005 -- Nathan Burnell started his undergraduate studies at the University of Rhode Island in 1997, but dropped out after his first semester because he did not want to be in college without a goal.

After two years off to work and travel, he returned to URI with aspirations of entering the computer technology field.

This Sunday Burnell, 25, will graduate at the top of his class and receive the President’s Student Excellence Awards in both computer science and computer engineering for his academic achievements.

“It’s the icing on the cake,” he said of the honors. Burnell also received the
Caldwell Award for his academic excellence in computer science. He also found time to get married two years ago to Amanda Burnell who is a URI student.

A native of Jamestown, he says he chose the computer field because computer technology pervades our everyday lives and can be applied to almost any problem.
“The industry is constantly evolving so there are always opportunities to learn something new or, perhaps, create something new,” he said.

His time at URI has been filled with a variety of research projects and classroom experiences. He worked with Professor Peter Swaszek of the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering to create a simple camera controller program; he assisted Professor Victor Fay-Wolfe at URI’s Digital Forensics Center to create a program that analyzes image files. He is currently working with Professor Jean-Yves Hervé of the 3D Group for Interactive Visualization to create a protein visualization application.

In addition to his research experiences, he has worked as a teacher’s assistant for the Department of Computer Science and Statistics for a number of courses. He has enjoyed the experience. “It reinforced what I had learned in those courses, and it also provided me with the opportunity to meet many new students and help them learn and acclimate to the University’s rigorous computer science curriculum,” he said.

Burnell’s advice for future graduates is two-fold. “First, know what you want. You’ll have more ambition and a much greater drive if you know which field you’d like to work in after graduation,” he said. “Second, seek out internships and work closely with your department. You won’t regret it.”

“The five years I spent at URI were the best five years of my life,” he said. “I just hope that the rest of my life is as well spent.”

URI News Bureau Photo by Michale Salerno Photography